Dusti Bowling, author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, interview

I got to read an advanced copy of Dusti Bowling’s debut middle grade novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and immediately fell in love with Aven.  Born without arms, this is a girl who does not let anything get in the way of where she is going. What I appreciated was how Dusti made this disability a part of Aven but not her entirety. Much to be learned from that for everyone. And we have Dusti here to answer some questions, too. Lucky us!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’m not really sure where my love of reading comes from. No one else in my family is a reader or ever encouraged reading. I think I was just born like this. My love of writing definitely comes from my love of books.

What was the hardest part of writing Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus?

The hardest part was making sure I wrote Aven accurately—her feelings, her insecurities, her hardships. Because I have arms, this was definitely a challenge.

Your main character, Aven, was born without arms. Her new friend Connor also struggles with a disability. How did you ensure you got the details of their challenges as accurate as possible?

While writing my story, I found a woman online who makes informative videos about life without arms. I watched and studied all the videos, then when I was done writing my story, I reached out to her to see if she would read my story. She did read it and gave it a very enthusiastic stamp of approval. Her blurb is on the back of the book.

As for Connor and his Tourette Syndrome, my husband and two of my daughters have tic disorders. I relied heavily on their experiences as well as reading and watching as much as I could about Tourette’s.

Aven is just the kind of spunky and sassy that I love. Did you feel like you knew her immediately or did she take some time to come together on the page?

I got to know Aven for over a period of about a year before I ever put her down on paper. I knew from the day I started thinking about her she would be strong and determined, but I think she got spunkier and funnier over that year. By the time I started writing, I knew her extremely well and her personality never changed.

Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

I know I said I think I was born with a love of reading, but it was really middle grade books that pushed me over the edge starting around third grade. Middle grade stories got me through some of the hardest times in my life. I hope my books speak to kids like they spoke to me.

Who are your favorite authors?

Sherman Alexie, Stephen King, Lynn Austin, Katherine Applegate

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Spending time with my husband and three daughters.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a Goonies-inspired adventure set in an extremely poor desert town about a group of kids who go into a mine on the eve of the most important race of the summer to find a piece of gold to buy back a dirt bike. The girl who owns the dirt bike is one of the best racers in town and traded it to a bully to stop him from hurting the main character in the story.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Readers can find me on Twitter at @Dusti_Bowling. They can also contact me through my website www.dustibowling.com